The work of an actor can seem like the perfect career. You get to work in an extremely popular and creative profession. It's not easy to break into and it's very competitive, but if you can find your feet it can be fulfilling both personally and financially.
Actors express ideas and portray characters in theater, film, television, and other performing arts media. They interpret a writer’s script to entertain or inform an audience.
It's a job that you do not need to acquire a college degree to gain access too. While there are traditional college courses out there to help you learn how to act, they are not a necessity in acquiring a career in the profession, so do not let exorbitant student fees and several more years in the education system put you off.
Over the course of the following article, we are going to take a more in-depth look at the career of an actor and try and answer some questions you may have as to what the career entails and what the salary of an actor is. We will also look at how you become one, what the skills you need to excel in the role is and a look at some occupations with similarities to it. First though, we will take a look at what the work of an actor is.
What Does an Actor Do?
An actor's job is to fully represent the character they are playing and to convince their audience that character is real by engaging them and drawing them into the story. This applies to major roles and smaller parts, as all roles combine to create a successful production.
Think of the great actors of our time – the likes of Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep and Robert DeNiro – their performances are so encapsulating that you would at times forget they are portraying a character.
There are many ways to get into character and actors often research the jobs, hobbies, or activities of the characters they play so they are able to put themselves in that frame of mind. Physical appearance can be important in creating a character as well, and actors will often lose or gain weight, or change their hair color to physically create the character they are playing.
If the part demands any kind of emotional drama (for example, coping with the end of a relationship), an actor often researches people who have experienced what the story-line depicts in order to realistically understand and convey the emotions involved.
Actors may need to travel all over the world as part of their job, as sometimes they must go to where the work is taking place by shooting on location. Where this is will obviously depend on the production, but the scope is near limitless.
What Skills Do You Need to Be an Actor?
Working as an actor and acting requires a huge amount of skill. Sometimes while watching people act you may think it looks easy – this is part of the job, but it is by no means easy. Here are some skills and traits that will see you excel when it comes to acting:
It may seem obvious, but to be an actor, you will need a good performing ability. it's not as easy as reading lines off a script – you must be able to adapt to character and deliver them convincingly, which is easier said than done.
Understanding of Emotions/Empathy
Empathy is a huge part of what makes great actors as good as they are. Being able to identify with a character's situation makes you better able to emulate them when portraying them. As such, if you are an empathetic person, it will stand to your acting ability.
You’ll need to be dedicated to the cause to succeed when it comes to acting. This means dealing with plenty of rejections, what-ifs and disappointments and continuing on with the same untapped enthusiasm. It can be physically and emotionally exhausting, but unfortunately, it’s part of the trade and that’s why those with strong will and dedication will prosper.
As an actor, you can’t take your eyes off the prize. What the “prize” is will differ from person to person, but generally it will involve making it as a professional in some way. In such a hugely competitive field, this requires steadfast determination and a belief in your own abilities.
Genuine Love of The Arts
As acting can be such a competitive and sometimes disheartening line of work, you will need to have a genuine love and appreciation of the arts to excel in the role. You will need to be comfortable when watching other acting and be able to appreciate the arts.
Okay With Criticism
The acting trade is filled with criticism, so you need a thick skin. Be it the feedback you receive in an audition or the snarky comments someone makes about your performance online, you need to be able to laugh things off and not take the critical and sometimes insulting things people say about you to heart.
How to Become an Actor?
So, how do you break into a career like acting? Well, it can be a combination of several things, but perhaps the two most important of these is talent and luck.
You don’t necessarily need any education at all to be an actor, but what you do need are convincing abilities. It’s an industry that you can enter at any time, from a child to an elderly person.
Similar to a job interview, there will be many people auditioning for just one part at an audition. The difference for actors is that they constantly have to audition for parts. This means that they have to be able to cope with rejection and to learn from each experience.
Maintaining a positive attitude is important, as it will often take many auditions for an aspiring actor to get his/her first part. Being determined and dedicated will help in this situation, as attending as many auditions as possible should eventually end in a successful audition. In such an expressive career in arts and entertainment, it is often the people who are most passionate about what they are doing who are most successful.
Those who are in it specifically for the fame are at a major disadvantage, because it is only a very minor few who reach the levels of super-stardom.
And even if you’re an excellent and talented actor who puts in a good audition, there’s still a lot of luck involved – in everything from getting the audition in the first place to being the person the casting crew decide is fit to play a specific part. With this being the case, you need to be determined, hard-skinned and resilient to succeed. It takes a lot of graft and effort but if you persevere, you may be able to work in your dream career – without ever getting a degree!
That’s not to say there aren’t acting qualifications that can help you on the road to refining your talents. Check around for acting classes in your area – it doesn’t have to be anything major, it may be a free class in the community hall, but it may give you an insight into the tricks of the trade.
Salary and Additional Benefits
Finding the average salary of actor isn't a black-and-white figure. According to Salary.com, the median annual salary of an actor as of March 2018 is $54,828 with a range of usually between $45,181-$66,942 (the median salary is a figure which is derived from finding the wage at which fifty percent of earners make more than and fifty percent make less than).
These figures are misleading, however, especially for those starting out. The world of acting is notoriously competitive, meaning you're not guaranteed a continuous stream of work. Starting out, it is common for actors to have more than one job as a way of subsidizing their work as an actor, as jobs can be far and few between.
Fees will also differ depending on projects, so you may be unaware of how large or small your next job will be, making it difficult to predict what your annual earnings will be. If you can get to the point where you are holding down jobs as an actor, it can prove to be a very fulfilling and lucrative career, but this will require firm dedication.
If you are working as a professional actor, there are plenty of benefits to the role. For one, you'll be working in an industry that you are passionate about alongside people with a similar mindset. You'll also have the potential to travel to far-flung parts of the world as part of your job for on-location shooting, which could stretch to literally anywhere in the world. You'll also possibly be attending lavish events such as premieres and award ceremonies, which no doubt has a large appeal to many people.
In terms of professional benefits, because an actors livelihood can be uncertain their are unions in action to ensure that you're adequately paid and receive benefits. SAG-AFTRA is the biggest Union of it's kind in the United States, with over 160,000 members, so it is worth familiarizing yourself with the security that it provides for those working in creative professions.
You may be interested by several aspects of the acting profession but also want to hear about similar occupations that utilize similar skill sets and also don't require you to have a college degree – jobs like that of an announcer or a dancer.
Announcers present music, news, and sports and may provide commentary or interview guests about these or other important topics. Some act as masters of ceremonies (emcees) or disc jockeys (DJs) at weddings, parties, or clubs. It’s a job that requires its own kind of acting, and is great for affable and enthusiastic people.
Dancers and choreographers use dance performances to express ideas and stories. There are many types of dance, such as ballet, tango, modern dance, tap, and jazz. Dance and acting have many similarities, and both are performance art styles.
If you are interested by the prospect of pursuing a career in acting, don't feel the need to get a degree. Going to college to learn the tricks of the acting trade is the perfect option for some people but it isn't for everybody. College can be expensive and time-consuming, so if it does not appeal to you don't let it stop you from pursuing your goals.
Acting can be a difficult career to break into, but once you do it has to potential to be very fulfilling. It can also offer one of the most varied work days possible – something new every day – and a good salary, so be sure to assess your options before committing to a degree.